August 6, 2019 at 12:40 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
PHOTOS: Washington Blade returns to US-Mexico border, Central America
A mural at the entrance to Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas, on July 15, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

EL PASO, Texas — The Washington Blade on July 13 returned to the U.S.-Mexico border to continue its coverage of LGBTI migrants.

Héctor Ruiz of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Imelda Maynard of Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico and Paola Fernández of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee spoke with the Blade in El Paso on July 15. The Blade on the same day interviewed a gay Ugandan man who recently won asylum in the U.S., Nathan Craig and Margaret Brown Vega of Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert and Ryan Steinmetz of PFLAG Las Cruces Rainbow Refugee Project in Las Cruces, N.M.

Leche Merchant, a transgender woman from Mexico’s Guerrero state who had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, on July 16 arrived at a shelter for LGBTI migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, shortly after she crossed the border from El Paso. The Blade on the same day visited Programa Compañeros, an organization in Ciudad Juárez that provides assistance to migrants and other groups that include people with HIV/AIDS.

Ciudad Juárez is across the Rio Grande from El Paso. The Blade was in the two border cities less than three weeks before a white supremacist killed 22 people and injured more than two dozen others when he opened fire inside a Walmart near El Paso’s Cielo Vista Mall.

President Trump faces renewed criticism over his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric and his reluctance to overly condemn white supremacists. The Walmart massacre took place less than six months after Trump defended a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border at a rally he held at the El Paso County Coliseum, which is a few blocks from the Bridge of the Americas over the Rio Grande that separates the city from Ciudad Juárez.

Mother of dead trans Salvadoran migrant seeks answers from ICE

The Blade on July 18 interviewed Cristian Sánchez of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) at his San Antonio office. Patricia Medina de Barrientos, the mother of Johana “Joa” Medina León, a transgender woman from El Salvador who died at El Paso’s Del Sol Medical Center three days after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released her from custody, on July 24 said during an interview in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador she wants to know “exactly what happened to” her child.

“She always watched out for other people,” Medina de Barrientos told the Blade, speaking through tears. “[She was] very happy, respectful, always helping other people.”

Gay Guatemalan Congressman-elect Aldo Dávila on July 27 during an interview in Guatemala City sharply criticized his country’s government over its decision to sign a “safe third country” agreement with the White House that requires migrants who pass through Guatemala on their way to the U.S. to first seek asylum in the country. Dávila later in the day was among the hundreds of people who protested outside Guatemala’s presidential palace.

The Blade since January has reported from California’s Imperial Valley; Arizona, New Mexico; Mexico City; Mexico’s Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua and Chiapas states; Guatemala; El Salvador and Honduras.

A coffee mug with a gun handle for sale at a store in Abilene, Texas, on July 13, 2019. Texas’ gun laws have come under renewed focus in the wake of a mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart on Aug. 3, 2019, that left 22 people dead and more than two dozen others injured. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A televangelist appears on a television station in Midland, Texas, on July 14, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A Pride flag hangs from a silo near downtown Marfa, Texas, on July 14, 2019. Marfa, which has a population of roughly 2,000 people, is about 60 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The U.S. Border Patrol Station in Clint, Texas, where hundreds of migrant children have been kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The Lorenzo G. Loya Primary School in San Elizario, Texas, on July 14, 2019. The school is less than two miles from a U.S. Border Patrol Station in which hundreds of migrant children have been kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The front page of a Spanish-language newspaper in El Paso, Texas, on July 15, 2019, with the headline,” U.S. citizens carry passports out of fear.” (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., on July 15, 2019. Johana “Joa” Medina León, a transgender woman from El Salvador, had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the facility until ICE released her on May 28. Medina died three days later at a hospital in nearby El Paso, Texas. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Downtown El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, from the Scenic Drive Overlook in El Paso, Texas, on July 15, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
From left: Nathan Craig and Margaret Brown Vega in their home in Las Cruces, N.M., on July 15, 2019. Craig is holding a picture he and Vega received from a gay man who was previously in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Portions of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, as seen from Interstate 10 near downtown El Paso, Texas, on July 15, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A television station in El Paso, Texas, on July 16, 2019, reported on a secret U.S. Border Patrol Facebook post in which agents made offensive posts about migrants and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (D-N.Y.), among others. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A freeway in El Paso, Texas, that parallels the Rio Grande, which marks the U.S.-Mexico border. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A nearly dry Rio Grande passes under the Stanton Street Bridge between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A mural in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, 2019, reads, “nobody is illegal.” Thousands of migrants who hope to enter the U.S. are currently in the Mexican border city. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A pedestrian-only street in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, that ends at the city’s main cathedral. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A group of men who use drugs eat lunch at the offices of Programa Compañeros, an organization in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, that provides assistance to people with HIV/AIDS, migrants and other groups. Some of these men lived in the U.S. until their deportation to Mexico. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Zuleika, a transgender woman from El Salvador’s San Vicente Department, is among the LGBTI migrants who live at a shelter in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, that Respetttrans Chihuahua, a local advocacy group, runs. The shelter is less than two miles from the Mexico-U.S. border. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The Paso del Norte Port of Entry between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A restaurant in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, 2019, has a handwritten sign in its window that advertises “Cuban food.” Thousands of Cuban migrants who hope to enter the U.S. are currently living in the Mexican border city. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A sign at a Walmart in northeast El Paso, Texas, on July 17, 2019, notes the company is “investing in American jobs.” A gunman on Aug. 3, 2019, killed 22 people and wounded more than two dozen others when he opened fire at another Walmart near El Paso’s Cielo Vista Mall. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The desert along Interstate 10 near Tornillo, Texas, on July 17, 2019. Tornillo, which is roughly 45 minutes southeast of El Paso, is near the U.S.-Mexico border. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A mural of the Texas flag in Van Horn, Texas, on July 17, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A flyer in the lobby of a San Antonio office of RAICES, a group that advocates on behalf of migrants, advertises a hotline for people to call if they know someone who is in immigration detention. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A billboard along Interstate 35 in Pearsall, Texas, on July 18, 2019, advertises a hotline for people to call if they have loved ones in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. The billboard is less than a mile from the South Texas Detention Complex in which transgender women in ICE custody are currently held. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas, on July 18, 2019. Transgender women are among those who are currently in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the facility that is south of San Antonio. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, on July 19, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A caricature in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park on July 21, 2019, highlights the reunification of children with their parents. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A Mexican television station broadcasts a story about 30 migrants who have been detained in Tapachula, a city in Mexico’s Chiapas state that is near the country’s border with Guatemala. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A sign outside of a gay bar in Mexico City says it does not discriminate based on “national origin, language … indigenous identity” and other factors. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Patricia Medina de Barrientes is the mother of Johana Medina León, a transgender woman who died in an El Paso, Texas, hospital on June 1, 2019, three days after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released her from their custody. Medina de Barrientes spoke exclusively with the Washington Blade on July 24, 2019, in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Washington Blade photo by Ernesto Valle)
A billboard in San Salvador, El Salvador, on July 23, 2019, advises Salvadorans “not to lose your life in the gangs. It is easy to join, but the only way out is jail or death.” Gang violence has prompted tens of thousands of migrants from El Salvador and neighboring Honduras to seek refuge in the U.S. in recent years. New Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele has launched this anti-gang campaign as a way to stop the flow of migrants from his country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A poster that is part of a U.S. Agency for International Development-sponsored campaign against human trafficking in the lobby of a Guatemala City hotel on July 27, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Gay Guatemalan Congressman-elect Aldo Dávila on July 27, 2019, protests against the “safe third country” agreement that President Jimmy Morales’ government signed with the White House. The protest took place in front of the Presidential Palace in Guatemala City. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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